April 12, 2023
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Like so many other deer hunters, I keep tabs on the whitetail herd where I hunt using a trail camera. I was a little distressed that deer numbers were so low this year, and as I rolled through the previous night’s pics from my Bushnell camera, I came upon a scene that should send shivers up the spine of every deer hunter: a single image captured in the wee hours of the morning that showed a pack of seven coyotes in one frame.
It takes a great deal of protein to feed seven hungry predators, and whether the arrival of the coyotes coincided with the drop in deer numbers cannot be proven. However, the ’yotes chose a poor location to set up shop in search of a meal, as they didn’t know that at the same time they arrived I was in the process of testing Rock River’s LAR-15M All Terrain Hunter.
This AR was designed primarily with the predator hunter in mind, and the family snapshot of a bunch of hungry coyotes prompted me to get that gun into the field.
The AR has become popular for all types of hunting, but these guns have long been a favorite tool of those who pursue predators. Fast cycling and ample capacity allow AR hunters to keep firing when a whole pack of coyotes breaks cover, and the AR’s versatility allows you to hang lights, lasers, thermal sights, bipods or anything else you might need on the rifle.
The All Terrain Hunter is supremely engineered for hunting even by AR standards. It features a .223 Wylde chamber, which, in the simplest terms, is a hybrid of a .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO chamber. Like the RRA rifle itself, the Wylde chamber originated in Illinois and is the brainchild of Bill Wylde, who wanted to bridge the gap between the .223’s slightly smaller chamber dimensions and the 5.56’s lengthened throat, which accommodates higher pressures. The result is a chamber that’s suitable for 5.56 ammo yet more accurate. This allows you to fire both .223 and 5.56 ammunition in the rifle without concern.
The AR platform is the most modular of all rifle designs, but not all ARs are created equal. As with any other gun, the quality of an AR rifle is based on the sum of its parts. RRA builds accessories for a wide variety of AR platform guns, so most of the components of the All Terrain Hunter come directly from Rock River and are machined in its Geneseo, Illinois, factory.
All Terrain Hunter rifles are built using Rock River’s forged LAR-15M lower receiver and forged upper receiver, and they feature the company’s cryogenically treated 18-inch heavy match (0.75-inch) stainless steel barrels with a 1:8 twist rate and 1/2x28 threaded muzzle. The muzzle is topped off with an RRA Operator muzzle brake.
All Terrain Hunter rifles use a mid-length gas system with Rock River’s low-profile gas block, which is made from 4140 chrome-moly steel and features a manganese phosphate finish.
The handguard is Rock River’s M-Lok-compatible 13-inch extended, lightweight, free-float model, and it’s ideally suited for killing coyotes because it offers plenty of space for attaching lights, bipods and other accessories but doesn’t weigh so much that it adds to the burden when hiking long distances with the rifle.
At the rear of the rifle is RRA’s CAR Operator six-position telescoping sight with QD attachment points. Adjustable stocks make sense on most rifles, but they’re especially important on coyote guns since you’ll be hunting in everything from T-shirt summer weather to the deep freeze in the dead of winter. With multiple layers to defend against the bitter January winds, it’s important to have a stock that can be shortened to accommodate the added clothing bulk.
Also perfect for winter hunting is the RRA winter trigger guard. It’s oversize, and that makes shooting with thick winter gloves possible. The two-stage Ultra Match Varmint trigger is another of RRA’s creations, and it’s superb. There’s a light take-up of about 1.5 pounds, and the trigger on the test rifle broke at an average of 2.8 pounds for 10 shots when measured on a Wheeler gauge. The trigger is crisp, clean and predictable.
If you plan to hunt in winter when coyote and fox pelts are prime, you’ll appreciate the RRA All Terrain Hunter’s Star two-position safety. The oversize knob is easy to find and manipulate when your fine motor skills are impeded by heavy clothes and low temperatures.
The RRA All Terrain Hunter weighs in at 7.6 pounds without an optic and has a collapsed length of 36 inches. A single 20-round metal magazine is included.
ARs represent many different things to different people. To hunters, a freshly unboxed AR is a blank slate, a canvas that can be customized into the perfect hunting machine. Rock River Arms rifles already have the important components: a premium barrel, receiver, trigger and everything else you need. The final layout of your perfect predator rifle depends largely on your tastes, preferences and the game and location where you’ll be hunting.
My deer hunting property turned coyote café lies in southern Ohio not far from the Kentucky border. The portion of this country that was flattened by glaciers during the Pleistocene epoch is now covered in agricultural fields that are broken by woodlots and fencerows. A few miles south along the Ohio River are the Appalachian Foothills, which are more rugged and more forested.
Coyotes thrive in all that country, but hunting properties are relatively small, and it’s rare to get a shot at a ’yote over 300 yards. Sometimes shots are much closer, and there are occasions when I’ve been hunting that a shotgun with magnum turkey loads would have been ideal.
I took the local conditions into consideration when configuring the All Terrain Hunter. The Operator muzzle brake works well, but it’s nice to have the ability to add a suppressor to your rifle in an area of the country where even rural areas are within earshot of human habitation. I removed the RRA brake and replaced it with my Silencer Central Banish 30 suppressor, which I mated to the rifle using a Silencer Central 1/2x28 to 5/8x24 adapter.
Moving between calling setups can be taxing if you’re toting a heavy rifle with an oversize optic. For this predator rifle I wanted an optic that would offer sufficiently low magnification for close shots and ample high-end magnification should I need to drop a coyote at a few hundred yards. I settled on a Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8x36mm scope mounted on the company’s Mark AR mounting system.
Just ahead of the scope and well in front of the ejection port, I mounted a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro reflex sight on an angle mount that allowed me to, with just a slight turn of the rifle, shoot a coyote that appeared at close range regardless of the scope’s magnification.
On the handguard—which is trim, like a hunting rifle’s should be—I mounted an M-Lok bipod that offered a stable platform for prone shots. With all accessories in place and a full magazine, the rifle weighed just under nine pounds, which is manageable.
I’ve tested RRA rifles in the past, and all have proven to be accurate. The LAR-15M All Terrain Hunter turned out to be the most accurate of the bunch, producing groups that measured as small as 0.42 inch for three shots at 100 yards. Rock River Arms promises its rifles will shoot 0.75 inch or less at 100 yards, but that was the average groups for the three loads tested. With factory ammunition the RRA likes, it’ll shoot half-inch three-shot groups.
The value of a versatile AR hunting rifle like the Rock River Arms All Terrain Hunter is it can be adapted to suit your needs. I accessorized the test rifle for the specific task of shooting coyotes under 300 yards. However, with this gun’s accuracy potential and low recoil, it could be converted to a long-range rifle for hunting prairie dogs and predators in wide-open spaces by simply swapping the optic for something with a bit more magnification. The All Terrain Hunter could just as easily be converted to a personal defense or duty rifle.
“The Rock River Arms LAR-15 ATH is a balance between a highly practical defense rifle and multi-purpose hunting platform where performance, reliability and accuracy are key elements for its use in the field,” said Chuck Larson, one of the founders of Rock River Arms.
Suggested retail price is set at $1,425. That’s less than Windham Weaponry’s 8.4-pound, 20-inch Varmint rifle ($1,560) and Daniel Defense’s DDM4 Hunter 5.56 ($2,147). The Rock River lacks an adjustable target stock like the Windham Weaponry rifle, and it doesn’t come with a Kryptek camo dip like the Daniel Defense gun, but there’s no doubt that the Rock River is an exceptionally accurate rifle with features that rival those found on more expensive rifles.
Rock River Arms has been in business since 1996. With more than 25 years of experience, the brand has the history and experience to build high-quality ARs, and I have yet to see a rifle that comes out of the Rock River factory that wasn’t thoughtfully designed and reliable.
The same can be said for the new LAR-15 ATH, which certainly lives up to its billing as an all-terrain .223 hunting rifle. These guns are built from high-quality components, so you can expect them to last for many years, and their accuracy potential allows you drop coyotes at any practical distance. If you’re like me and have fallen a bit behind on your predator control duties, the All Terrain Hunter rifle from Rock River can help rectify that problem.
But like any good AR, the All Terrain Hunter is a multitool that’s suitable for competition, recreational shooting and personal defense as well as predator and pest control. It’s a gun that will do whatever you ask of it, and even though it isn’t cheap, it is an excellent value.
LAR-15M All Terrain Hunter Specifications
- Type: Direct-impingement, mid-length AR-15
- Caliber: .223 Wylde
- Capacity: 20-round magazine supplied
- Barrel: 18 in. fluted Wilson Combat Match Grade; threaded 1/2x28, RRA Operator brake
- Overall Length: 36 in. collapsed
- Weight: 7 lb., 10 oz.
- Stock: Rock River Arms Operator CAR
- Finish: Matte black anodized
- Trigger: Ultra Match Varmint two-stage; 2.8 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: None; Picatinny rail
- Price: $1,425
- Manufacturer: Rock River Arms, RockRiverArms.com